CHAPTER III.--HISTORY OF NEWFOUNDLAND SINCE THE GRANT OF RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT.

The Period from 1895 to Present Day. (continued)

  115. The following decorations were won by the Regiment:--

  One V.C., 2 C.M.G., 4 D.S.O., 28 M.C., 6 Bars to M.C., 32 D.C.M., 1 Bar to D.C.M., 105 M.M., 8 Bars to M.M., 1 O.B.E., 22 Mentions in Despatches, 21 Allied Decorations, 3 other medals; Total 234.

  In the Royal Naval Reserve, 167 men were killed in action and 124 invalided out of the Service.

  116. If any further proof were required of the determination of Newfoundland to make the greatest possible contribution to the Imperial Forces, it is to be found in the passage in 1918 of an Act to enforce compulsory service. For this measure Mr. (later Sir William) Lloyd, who had succeeded Sir Edward Morris as Prime Minister, was responsible. Sir William Lloyd eventually represented Newfoundland at the Peace Conference in Paris.

  117. From the purely financial point of view, Newfoundland may be said to have profited from the War. On the debit side may be set the loans raised to meet the Island's war expenditure: these, exclusive of an advance of some $2,000,000 made by the United Kingdom, amounted to some $13,000,000. On the other hand, the price of fish rose to phenomenal heights and fishermen and merchants alike made large profits. The lack of steam tonnage presented no serious difficulty for the locally-built sailing vessel was pressed into service in the carrying trade. A wave of prosperity swept over the country and the standard of living rose throughout the Island. The legacy of this period of easy money will be referred to in the following chapter. It will suffice to observe here that in 1920 the gross public debt of Newfoundland stood at $43,000,000, inclusive of the loans of $13,000,000 referred to above. It now stands at a little under $101,000,000. At the former figure, Newfoundland, by the exercise of strict economy in administration, might still have been able to pay her way in spite of the world depression. With a debt more than double that amount, such a task is an impossibility.

  118. The Census of 1921 (see Appendix A) showed that the population of Newfoundland, exclusive of Labrador, had grown to 259,259 as against 238,670 in 1911 and 217,037 in 1901. An increase of 12.9 per cent. was recorded in St. John's, the population rising from 32,292 in 1911 to 36,444 in 1921. The next largest towns were Bonavista and Harbour Grace with populations of 4,052 and 3,825 respectively. Over 65,000 persons were shown as engaged in the catching and curing of fish against 60,000 in 1884 and 67,000 in 1911. Compared with the returns for 1911, those for 1921 showed an increase of 300 in the number of farmers; on the other hand, the number of fishermen-farmers showed a falling off from 40,880 in 1911 to 34,979 in 1921.

Harbour Grace Harbour Grace (Conception Bay), n.d.
Photo by Holloway. From the album of photographs furnished to the Newfoundland Royal Commission, August 1933. Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Coll-207), Memorial University of Newfoundland Library, St. John's, Newfoundland.
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The following extract from the Census Report is of interest:-

  "While there are but 3,227 persons who are put down absolutely as farmers, there are over 30,000 fishermen and others who cultivate land, more or less, in addition to their usual occupation. This class is largely made up of the fishermen-farmers, and it is needless to say that those who are assiduous on the land as well as on the sea generally manage to live in comparative comfort. The great bulk of our population is engaged in connection with the fisheries. The figures given in the 1921 Census representing persons engaged in the catching and curing of fish are less than those of 1911, but higher than any Census previous to that date, viz.: 40,511 males and 24,937 females; altogether 65,448 persons. This, of course, does not include members of their families who are dependent upon them, but are not engaged in the catch and cure of fish. The figures have varied in past years, both as regards number and percentage to the whole population. In 1857, 31 per cent. of the total population were engaged in catching and curing fish; in 1868, 25.4 per cent.; 1874, 28.4 per cent.; in 1884, 30.6 per cent.; in 1891, 27.1 per cent.; in 1901, 28.4 per cent. in 1911, 27.6 per cent.; and in 1921, 24.9 per cent. At the present day the opening up of other industries in the Colony, and the enticing fields of labour elsewhere, are additional factors affecting the fisheries and those employed therein."*

  No census has been taken since 1921.

  119. In May, 1919, Sir William Lloyd was succeeded as Prime Minister by Sir Michael Cashin, who in turn gave place in November, 1919, to Mr. (later Sir) Richard Squires. The new Government held office until 1923 when Sir Richard Squires was again returned to power. Shortly afterwards, however, Sir Richard Squires resigned and was succeeded by Mr. W.R. Warren, who was defeated at the opening of the Legislature in April, 1924, on a vote of want of confidence. Mr. A.E. Hickman then became Prime Minister until June, 1924, when as a result of a general election he was succeeded by Mr. W.S. Monroe. In the summer of 1928 Mr. Monroe was succeeded by Mr. F.C. Alderdice for a few months before the next election fell due. At this election Sir Richard Squires came back to power, securing 28 out of the 40 seats, and held office until June, 1932. At the general election held in that month the number of seats was reduced, as a measure of economy, from 40 to 27. As a result of the election Mr. Alderdice became Prime Minister for the second time, winning 24 out of the 27 seats.

  120. The main events of the post-war period are referred to in the following chapter, in which we review the financial situation of the country from 1920 to the present day. Of outstanding importance to the Island were the opening, at Corner Brook in 1923, of a second Paper Mill, to which reference has already been made, the development of the lead and zinc deposits at Buchans near Red Indian Lake; and the decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1927 confirming Newfoundland in the sovereignty of Labrador. Unfortunately, the benefits which the Island derived from these favourable turns of the wheel of fortune were almost wholly discounted, as we shall show, by a reckless disregard of the dictates of financial prudence. The 12 years 1920-1932, during none of which was the budget balanced, were characterised by an outflow of public funds on a scale as ruinous as it was unprecedented, fostered by a continuous stream of willing lenders. A new era of industrial expansion, easy money and profitable contact with the rich American Continent was looked for and was deemed in part to have arrived. In the prevailing optimism, the resources of the Exchequer were believed to be limitless. The public debt of the Island, accumulated over a century, was in 12 years more than doubled; its assets dissipated by improvident administration; the people misled into the acceptance of false standards; and the country sunk in waste and extravagance. The onset of the world depression found the Island with no reserves, its primary industry neglected and its credit exhausted. At the first wind of adversity, its elaborate pretensions collapsed like a house of cards. The glowing visions of a new Utopia were dispelled with cruel suddenness by the cold realities of national insolvency, and to-day a disillusioned and bewildered people, deprived in many parts of the country of all hope of earning a livelihood, are haunted by the grim spectres of pauperism and starvation.



BIBLIOGRAPHY.

  L.A. Anspach, History of Newfoundland, London, 1819; Earl of Birkenhead, The Story of Newfoundland, London, 1920; Cambridge History of the British Empire, 1930, vol. VI; W.E. Cormack, Narrative of a Journey across Newfoundland in 1822, edited by. F.A. Bruton, London, 1928; Earl of Durham, Report on the affairs of British North America, 1839; Earl Grey, The Colonial Policy of Lord John Russell's Administration, 2nd edition, London, 1853; Sir W. Grenfell, The Story of a Labrador Doctor, 10th edition, London, 1932, and Forty Years for Labrador, London, 1933; J. Hatton and Reverend M. Harvey, Newfoundland, the oldest British Colony, London, 1882; Sir P.T. McGrath, Newfoundland in 1911, London, 1911; W.P. Morrell, Colonial Policy of Peel and Russell, Oxford, 1930; Rev. C. Pedley, Newfoundland from the earliest times to 1860, London, 1863; D.W. Prowse, History of Newfoundland, 2nd edition, London, 1896; J. Reeves, History of the Government of Newfoundland (in Sir C. Lucas' Historical Geography of the British Colonies, vol. V, part IV, Oxford, 1911, revised edition 1931); Don C. Seitz, Newfoundland, The Great Island, New York, 1931; E. Whelan, The Union of the British Provinces, Charlottetown, 1865; Beckles Wilson, The Tenth Island, London, 1897; and Sessional Papers and official publications, Canada and Newfoundland; and United Kingdom Parliamentary Papers and Departmental Reports.


  * Census of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1921, vol. 1, pp. xxi-xxii.


Image description updated May, 2004.



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